I don’t care what other people do,
just so long as they don’t do it to me.
David Albrecht, general rule for living
My blog is not only about IFRS, but I have dwelled on it. I have taken a stand on it, also. Have I been dispensing my views with attitude? I hate to think so, but I suppose some might think so. So, here goes:
I’m sorry if my views offend. This is a professional issue to me, and my life won’t end if my side doesn’t win. Really. I care strongly about it, though. I’m sure my strong emotion comes through, but I am trying not to be emotional.
A lot people on both sides are getting emotional on this one. I had no idea.
In early November, I took an interview trip to an unnamed university, and I needed a subject for a research presentation. Having written a dozen essays (or more) on the issue of the U.S. adopting IFRS, it seemed like a natural, I have even written about how worthy of serious academic inquiry is this topic. After a couple of days of trying to organize my presentation, I was pretty happy with it.
Two professors (who looked and sounded as if they were born in or close to India) weren’t happy with my position. I barely got started when they opened up. Actually, I never even got past the literature review into my own ideas. After an hour I just gave up. My presentation had been torpedoed! That night I didn’t sleep, bothered by what had occurred. My first impulse was to withdraw my name from consideration for the position, because I realized there was no way I could ever be hired after that debacle. Well, I didn’t withdraw, but then I didn’t get the position. Surprise.
I have no feeling of sour grapes about that institution. In fact, I had strong positive views about the school before, and I still have them. Hiring a faculty member is an art, not a science. I’m sure they hired the best faculty member for them. Never-the-less, I feel as if I was too roughly treated during the presentation. This post is not about the school, but the international faculty members.
Back to the main issue. I didn’t need to look it up, but I did anyway: xenophobia–an abnormal fear or hatred of foreigners and strange things. I had been treated like a xenophobe. With four other schools on my schedule, I wondered if I was facing an iron gauntlet.
Yes and no. So far, every faculty member of international descent with whom I’ve talked has brought up the issue of American bias and rejection of International ideas. They have, however, been much nicer about it than at the first school.
Should rejection of IFRS for the U.S. automatically qualify a person for xenophobe-hood? Apparently so. It seems similar to charges that anyone voting against Barak Obama is a racist. Oops, I voted for John McCain.
How do I defend myself against charges of being a xenophobe? I think it unfair and hitting below the belt. After all, these folks don’t even know me. On the other hand, are the folks on the other side being xenophobic?
I posed the question my being a xenophobe to colleagues on AECM, and one responded. David Fordham’s (James Madison) had a couple of views. One is that accounting rules are essentially preferences. Preferences are neither right nor wrong in the grand scheme of things. They are personal. I prefer butterscotch, another might prefer chocolate.
His notion makes sense. But it also makes sense to me that my preferences not be attacked by others. Who are these others that attack me just because I prefer a certain order of things? If I don’t care what others do (as long as they don’t do it to me), then why should others care what I do.
If I don’t think that the U.S. should adopt IFRS then why is an International getting all bent out of shape about it?
There are three reasons why the EU adopted IFRS. First, it makes good sense that the common economic unit have one set of accounting standards applied consistently within the borders of that unit. Second, to the extent that European governments want to shift responsibility for retirement support from the government to the individuals, then Europe needs to emphasize investment markets and better, more consistently applied accounting standards can only be helpful (OK, Europe has no interest in consistently applying those rules, as per Sunder). Third, Europe needed to assert its financial market independence from the U.S., and what better way could it choose than to adopt a separate language of business. IFRS are not American. And that seems to be the entire point. Not being American is the sole criterion for being adopted.
I think that Europe made a decision that is good for Europe. I will not argue, now or ever, what Europe should prefer. Conversely, I do not think that Europe should be attempting to influence (or control) the U.S. on what the U.S. standards should be.
Back to David Fordham. He says, “In my opinion, xenophobia, while certainly existent [in the American debate] to some degree, is probably not the dominant process at work here.” He goes on to say that Americans are probably just being self-centered and/or lazy and/or ignorant of the rest of the world. I think we are justified in being self-centered, in wanting certain rules for American financial markets.
But I wonder, are the Internationals the xenophobes on this issue? I’ve run into a few that act like it.
Over and out – – David Albrecht